The Future Unfolding

by talkbackty on Feb 28, 2012

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A century is a tiny fraction of time on the cosmic scale, yet to human beings the last century has produced more technological innovations than the previous thousand. Even the poorest individuals living in Western countries have technology that would make them gods to previous generations. Over the last 100 years we have spread industrialization to every corner of the globe, traveled to the moon and connected billions of individuals through the internet. However, some are not content with the work of our forefathers. Some are asking what's next.

Futurists are individuals who study past and current trends in order to make predictions about the future. Last year TIME had a cover story on Ray Kurzweil- scientist, inventor and author. The article discussed a coming technological singularity, a moment in time when imagination instantly becomes reality through technology. While Kurzweil is an important member of this sub-section of our society predicting what the future has in store, he is not alone.
Jason Silva self-describes as a filmmaker, futurist and epiphany addict. He has gained popularity through numerous video shorts talking about the cross section of science and art ( He calls the shorts "philosophical shots of espresso" meant to both enlighten and inspire. Combining wondrous works of art with Silva's exuberant delivery style makes watching the videos so engrossing that afterward it is difficult to decide whether to stand up and cheer or immediately find the next clip.

THE BEGINNING OF INFINITY from Jason Silva on Vimeo.

When people think in historical terms they often remember dates and events, maybe a Hollywood take on WWII or the half-forgotten lecture of a grade school teacher. If, instead, we looked at history from a cosmic point of view reality becomes far more interesting. What you would see is the exponential decrease in the lag time between human imagination and tangible existence. Pharaohs dreamed of the pyramids but rarely lived to see them completed. Today, a half-drunk college kid thinks of a social site and five years later it is one of the biggest companies in the world. Artists no longer wait for their work to be discovered years after their death, but paint using iPads and upload it immediately to dozens of communities around the globe. Silva says in another of his videos, "right now the smartphone in your pocket is a million times cheaper, a million times smaller and a thousand times more powerful than a $60 million super-computer was in the 1960s. That is a billion-fold increase in price, performance and miniaturization."
Let's keep our head in the clouds
The speed of those innovations is only increasing and will continue to do so until the next singularity. I asked Silva to describe the singularity: "The Singularity is a metaphor for the moment in which a technological threshold is crossed that changes everything. It's not that far-fetched. There have been other singularities. The invention of rich symbolic language changed the operating system of the brain, for example, and was a radical transformation that allowed us to invent with purpose and deliberation. Language was a singularity. Agriculture was a singularity. The industrial revolution was as well."

That understanding of past and present events allows for, seemingly, radical predictions to be made about the future. To futurists like Kurzweil and Silva the possibilities are endless. Here are some ideas of what we are talking about:

In vitro meat: Grown not as an animal but specifically for human consumption. Genes would be regulated to increase desired qualities i.e. vitamins, amino acids, omega-3. Instinctively, we all know that our current rate of production is unsustainable. Most farm land goes towards growing corn that we feed to livestock. In vitro meat would end those types of problems.

Machine/Human combination: Already bones can be replaced with metal alloys, but soon we will have heart transplants that are cloned from our original DNA and then improved using nano-technology. This would allow for human life to be substantially lengthened. Eventually, bodies may become relics, the same way we look at suits of armor today.

Universal telepathy: Phone calls, texts and emails have begun this process. The fact that you are reading this article is evidence of a substantial form of telepathy. I have never spoken these words aloud to any living thing, yet you understand me regardless of distance, our relationship or even language. As the singularity nears, these processes we take for granted will be the stepping stones for communication that is so instantaneous it blurs the line between technology and magic.

Manipulation of biology: Theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson said, “In the future, a new generation of artists will be writing genomes the way that Blake and Byron wrote verses." How today computer programmers write in a language most do not understand to create websites or videos or blogs, our children's children may do the same with biological genomes. One day humans may not only create life, but invent it.

This is the stage society is at. We exist on the precipice of unimaginable change, and it is coming faster than we can conceptualize. At this moment, every possibility exists for our future. As a society we can choose numerous directions, of war or peace, of regression or progression, of apathy or creation. The Imaginary Foundation uses this motto, "To imagine is to perceive many potential futures, select the most delightful possibility, and then pull the present forward to meet it."

Let's do that.


Special thanks to Jason Silva. @jason_silva &